Thursday, May 25, 2017

B&O Egg Sandwich

It is just an egg sandwich.  That is what my beautiful Angel and I kept saying to ourselves as we were preparing that dish for our Wine Club.  It is just an egg sandwich.  But it is a pretty damn good egg sandwich.  Why? Because it proves that you can make a very good dish with a very simple recipe.

This particular recipe originated in Grafton, West Virginia.  According to Dining on the B&O Railroad, the authors visited a signal tower and spoke with the railroader who worked there. The author asked the employee about his favorite food, which was an egg sandwich that he had every day for lunch.  The recipe is basically an egg between two pieces of toast with a dollop of Miracle Whip.   A simple recipe that brought a lot of satisfaction to a worker, day after day, year after year.  A very good dish that is the product of a very simple recipe.

The railroader's egg sandwich was not an official recipe of the B&O Railroad, although a fried egg sandwich did appear on a menu in the railroad's dining car on March 17, 1960.  The author of Dining on the B&O did not have the recipe and I could not find it.  And, while the railroader's recipe was very good for him, both by beautiful Angel and I wanted to make a couple of changes to make this recipe even better, but still very simple.

First, I decided to '86 the Miracle Whip and add some lettuce and a tomato.  I have never been a big fan of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  I rather dispense with that and add something that is a little healthier, like a slice of tomato and some lettuce.

Second, my beautiful Angel suggested that we sprinkle some Old Bay on the egg, giving a nod to Maryland.  This is after all a B&O Egg Sandwich and that "B" stands for Baltimore.  I thought that was a great idea.

Finally, we decided to present the sandwich as an open faced sandwich.  By getting rid of the extra piece of bread, we opened the sandwich to a far more pleasant presentation.

With these three changes, we gave this recipe our own touch.  In the end, at least in my humble opinion, this is a far better sandwich.   I have included the original recipe, with our changes listed as options.  Feel free to try both versions  Either way, a simple recipe produces a very tasty sandwich. 

Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 28-29
Serves 1

1 or 2 eggs
1 or 2 slices of toast
1-2 tablespoons butter
Kraft Miracle Whip, optional
1 tomato slice, optional
Lettuce, optional
Old Bay, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prepare the egg.  Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8 inch non-stick omelet pan or skillet over medium heat.  Break open eggs into pan and immediately reduce heat to low. Cook slowly until the eggs are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken, but not hard.  Break open the yolks and flip over for 15 seconds until cook.  Do not salt the eggs before or during cooking.  Salt can cause the eggs to become tough during cooking so for best results, salt eggs only after cooking.

2.  Finish the dish.  Toast the bread, place eggs on toast and spread Miracle whip (optional) on one slice of toast.  Salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Caboose, an Old Ox and a Lost Rhino ... A Journey Through Northern Virginia Craft Beer

A year ago, for my birthday, my beautiful Angel took me on a tour of Maryland's farm breweries, such as Red Shedman and Milkhouse Breweries. This year, the tour went across the Potomac to the State of Virginia.   The Old Dominion State has a lot of craft breweries.  Until a week or two ago, the only craft brewery that I visited in Virginia had been Port City (which, by the way, is a very good brewery and whose Porter I have previously reviewed).  My birthday celebration took me to three different breweries in Northern Virginia ... a caboose, an old ox and a lost rhino.  The trip touched the whole range of brew styles.


The first stop was Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna, Virginia.  The brewery is located at end of an industrial complex (as many craft breweries are).  The Caboose had over twelve beers on draft,  providing a wide range of styles to choose from.  I decided to do a flight of beers, so that I could pick from that range.  I tried the Crazy Train Tripel, the Citra Session IPA, the Stop, Drop & Doppelbock and the Gandy Dancer, which was a Schwartzbier.

All four beers were very good, but my favorite was probably the Crazy Train Tripel.  Setting aside my preference for Belgian beer styles, the Crazy Train hit the mark when it came to the style.  Elements of bananas and cloves were both on the nose and the palate, with the slight sweetness from candy sugar.  With a 9.0% ABV, there was a little booziness in the background.  The Doppelbock was also very good, with a light coffee taste accompanied by some raisin notes.  While this beer had an ABV of 8.2%, it was lighter than the tripel and a little deceiving in that respect.  The Schwartzbier also represented its style well, with the roasted malts suggesting dark roast coffee and well toasted bread.   The Citra Session IPA was good, providing a little citrus bitterness that one expects with a session pale ale.


The next stop was Old Ox Brewery, located in Ashburn, Virginia.  The name comes from one of the oldest roads in Loudoun County, which connected farmers to the markets.  Old Ox is a familiar name, as I have seen six packs of their beers -- such as the Alpha Ox Session IPA and the Golden Ox Belgian Style Golden Ale -- in local grocery stores.   However, I have to admit that I never had their beer, before this trip.  

I started first with the rarest beers offered on the board that day ... a collaboration between Old Ox Brewing and Ocelot Brewing, which is another Virginian craft brewery.  The beer was named Sir Oxcelot, and was a Belgian Quadrupel.  (Remember, I am a big fan of Belgian beer styles.)  This Quad,  rang in at a whopping 14.3% ABV.  This makes any description about it being boozy perhaps the most obvious statement one could make about the beer.  Still, the beer poured a nice dark brown, with notes of toffee and caramel in both the nose and the palate.  There was also some dark berry notes which I could not really place. 

Although one beer would have been enough, I did not know when I would be back in Ashburn, Virginia.  So, I also tried the Hoppier Place Powder to the People Imperial India Pale Ale.  This beer was relatively lighter when it came to the ABV, registering just 8.5%.  This ABV ensured a smoothness to the Imperial IPA, but the hops were aggressive enough so that the piney notes gripped the edges of the tongue with every sip.   Both are great sipping beers, which allowed me to sit back and relax a little with my beautiful Angel, as we watched our kids try to understand corn hole  (Needless to say, they did not quite get the game, but they nevertheless had fun trying to get the beanbags through the hole.)  

The two beers - the Sir Oxelot and the Hoppier Place -- were both very good beers.  I wish were bottled or canned, because I would have bought a couple to go.  Needless to say, I just bought a six pack of their Hardway Summer Lager. 


The last stop was the Lost Rhino Brewing Company, which was just a mile or two from the Old Ox.  Just like Old Ox, I have seen various beers from Lost Rhino in the grocery stores; and, I had not tried any of them before this visit.  The tap room had about eight different beers on tap, some of which were styles that I had not seen at either Caboose or Old Ox.  I decided to try a couple of them.  

First, I decided to try the Meridian Kolsch.  This was perhaps the lightest beer that I had tried during this trip.  It was refreshingly different, with a light yellow appearance that could have been mistaken for a hefeweizen.  The kolsch was a well balance of malts, both Pilsner and wheat, with just a hint of hops.  An easy drinking beer, as most kolsch beers are.   The only question was which beer to try next.  Having had an easy drinking beer, it was time to try the exact opposite.

That would be the Alphabrett beer.   This is a Belgian-style brown ale.  It is first brewed with a Belgian yeast (St. Bernardus) and then is aged for two years in wooden barrels with Brettanomyces or "Brett."  This is the name for wild yeast, which were in the barrel.  

The result is a very sour beer, which would probably turn off the casual beer drinker.  However, if you are someone who loves craft beer, especially trying something different, then this is the type of beer you should seek out and try.  The Alphabrett pours a light, wooden brown, and its aromatic elements provide advance warning of the sour notes from the wild yeast.  The flavor of the beer is a sour, slightly puckering green apple.  The Alphabrett was a great way to end an adventure through Northern Virginia craft beer. 

In the end, another successful expedition through craft beer of a region.   I can't wait until my next birthday.  Too bad I have to wait a year.  Until that time ...


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wine Club - A Dinner on the Baltimore & Ohio

It is a bygone era.  When rail was king and pretty much the principal means by which one could travel long distances.  During the height of its reign, railroads like the Baltimore & Ohio strived to provide passengers with the best experience that one could on the rails.  One important aspect of that experience involved food.  

That experience unfolded on the dining cars.  From the 1920s until the 1970s, the B&O railroad used dining cars on many of its lines, such as the Capitol Limited, which ran from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Illinois.  A dining car usually had a crew of six: two cooks, three waiters and a steward.  It was their job to prepare meals from scratch for dozens of guests.  The fact that the cooks could prepare those dishes from what could be best described as cramped quarters, while servers brought the food out to guests while the train was moving, meant that these individuals had to be very skilled at their jobs.  

For our next wine club, we will be trying to recreate a three-course dinner aboard the famous Capitol Limited.  If you took that train from Washington to Chicago, you would have had the opportunity to try dishes from the Chesapeake region.  Each one of these courses is selected from the book, Dining on the Railroad, which uses original recipes used by the cooks, with additional explanation and tips to help make the dishes in one's home.

A Duo - B&O Egg Sandwich and Crab Flake Salad

The first course is actually two dishes.  First, we start with the B&O Railroader's favorite ... the B&O Egg Sandwich.  The recipe comes from Grafton, West Virginia, where there was a signal tower where the railroader who worked there ate the sandwich every day for lunch.  Second, we will serve a crab flake salad, which will take jumbo lump crab marinated overnight and served over lettuce with crackers.  We are going to take a different approach to this recipe, foregoing the mayonnaise based sauce for a vinegar marinade, based upon the recipe for a West Indies Salad

Chicken Maryland

This recipe dates back to the 1960s.  It is a recipe traditionally made with a half chicken per order. We will probably use just chicken breasts or quarters, but, if I feel ambitious, I might just break down a bunch of chickens.   The chicken could be baked or fried, but, in our case will most likely be baked.  The chicken is served with a bechamel or cream sauce and a couple strips of bacon.  We'll finish the dish as it was served on the B&O Railroad ... with a corn fritter. 

Banana Snack Bread with Banana Ice Cream

Bananas were big on the B&O (little known fact ... bananas were a major import that came through Baltimore).  We will end the night with a double banana dessert - a banana snack bread (loaded with bananas and walnuts) with banana ice cream.

As always, recipes are subject to change.  We will see you soon!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf Stone Syrah (2010)

A while back, I decided that I would pause doing wine and beer reviews on Chef Bolek, because I thought that I needed to focus on more cooking posts.  I did not stop trying new wines and beers; instead, I just did not review any of them.  But, then I got to thinking ... some of these wines and beers I may never get to try again.  These reviews are my way of trying to put down some of my thoughts.  Without such reviews, any of those insights would be dependent upon my memory and, given how busy I have been, would be most likely lost over time.  

One such wine is the Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf Stone Syrah (2010).  This wine is one that I have had in the past, but, for which I never wrote a review.  My beautiful Angel and I drank the bottles we had, and, that was it.  Or so I thought.  

A year or two ago, Black Ankle Vineyards reached into its library and released some of its wines to its club members (which, fortunately, includes my Angel and me).  One of the library wines is the Leaf Stone Syrah.  This wine is made with 100% Syrah grapes that are estate grown.  The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, of which 65% were new oak.  According to Ed Boyce, the owner of Black Ankle Vineyards, the wine has "juicy, complex flavors," and "was still improving."  That was in April 2013.  Just think about how that wine would be four years later ... in May 2017.

The 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah pours a deep crimson velvet color, suggesting a robust northern Rhône syrah.  The use of 100% Syrah grapes would get someone thinking about French Rhône appellations such as Côte Rôtie or Cornas, both of which produce Syrah wines using solely that grape.  According to Wine Folly, the best wines from Côte Rôtie offer aromas and flavors ranging from black raspberry, black currant, violet and chocolate, along with elements of olives, bacon fat, white pepper and charcoal smoke.  (Bacon fat and smoke?  Now, I am hungry.)  By contrast, the wines from Cornas are some of the most tannic, with elements of blackberry jam, black pepper, violet, charcoal, chalk dust and smoke.    That is quite a range.

The Black Ankle Leaf Stone Syrah does not have the strong tannins of a Cornas Syrah, and, the flavor profile borrows a little from both Côte Rôtie and Cornas.  There are definitely ripe raspberry and currant elements to both the aroma and the taste, which are somewhat jammy, but there is also some lighter fruit such as strawberry on the palate.  I did not sense any bacon fat or smoke, but there is an earthiness, especially in the aroma, of some chalk and oak.  This wine has aged very well, and, it represents one of the oldest wines that I have reviewed on this blog.

I have previously reviewed a Leaf Stone Syrah (2008), which was more of a blend.  I noted that wine was perfectly paired with beef or lamb dishes, whether grilled, broiled or braised.  This wine is an even better complement to such dishes, because of how it aged and how its flavor elements would pair well with red meat.  Or, it could just be enjoyed on its own, as this wine has been as I wrote this review.  


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Octopus with Chorizo and Potatoes

With a long coastline stretching across the northwestern part of Spain, Galicia is well known for its seafood.  Cockles, clams, shrimp, and even barnacles.  For me, however, what the Galicians have been able to do with octopus that is simple and amazing.  It is simple because it is just a few ingredients.  The octopus, paprika and potatoes.  Those three ingredients, bonded together with a very good olive oil, give rise to pulpo gallego or polbo a fiera, the traditional Galician octopus dish. 

The key to preparing octopus is in the tenderizing of the meat.  Generally, there are two ways to do that.  One could pound the heck out of the tentacles with a flat tenderizer.  I have never cared for this method.  Rather, I prefer the second method: to boil the tentacles.  There is a catch to this second method.  It is important to dip the octopus in the boiling water three times before submerging it in the boiling water.  The dipping of the tentacles helps to set the tentacles (in other words, helps to keep them from curling to much).  It also helps to protect the skin during the cooking process. 

Once you get the cooking technique down, cooking octopus is very easy and it is an ingredient that I have worked with on a few occasions.  

Recently, I was looking for Spanish recipes for octopus and came across one from Food & Wine.  This recipe takes the ingredients of the classic polbo a fiera and goes one step further.  A Catalonian step.  The recipe adds chorizo, which most likely originated in Catalonia, to the Galician combination of octopus, paprika and potatoes.  The addition of pork seems like a natural fit, providing not just additional flavors, but also an added level of richness to a great dish.   

Recipe from Food & Wine
Serves 4

1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 3/4 pound of octopus tentacles
3/4 pound of potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 ounces of cured Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 teaspoons of thyme, chopped

1.  Prepare the octopus.   Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil with the onion and bay leaves.  Using tongs, carefully dip the octopus into the boiling water 3 times, then leave it in the water.  Cook the octopus over moderately low heat until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove from the heat and let the octopus stand in the water for 10 minutes.  Drain the water.  Cut the octopus into 1/2 inch pieces. 

2. Prepare the potatoes.  In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and add salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Toss the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the thyme.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Finish the dish.  In a grill pan, cook the chorizo over moderately high heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add the potatoes and octopus to the pan and cook until hot and the potatoes are golden in spots, about 5 minutes.  Add to the chorizo, season with salt and pepper and toss.  Drizzle a little more olive oil.  Serve immediately.